Civil Contract

Civil Contract

by Georgette Heyer


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When his father, the Viscount Lynton, dies unexpectedly, Adam Deveril abandons soldiering to return to his ancestral home-only to find the estate plagued by debt and the abundant land wilted with neglect. He must either sell everything and leave his family impoverished...or find a wealthy bride. Raised in privilege, Jenny Chawleigh is the only daughter of a doting, self-made financier who's determined to elevate his daughter's status in society. But to do that Jenny must marry into nobility.... And the new Viscount Lynton seems quite suitable. But while society politely applauds the fortuitous marriage, Adam is still possessed by the thought of another woman-the one he couldn't marry....

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402238772
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 11/01/2011
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 149,849
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

The late Georgette Heyer was a very private woman. Her historical novels have charmed and delighted millions of readers for decades, though she rarely reached out to the public to discuss her works or private life. She was born in Wimbledon in August 1902. She wrote her first novel, The Black Moth, at the age of seventeen to amuse her convalescent brother; it was published in 1921 and became an instant success.

Heyer published 56 books over the next 53 years, until her death from lung cancer in 1974. Heyer's large volume of works included Regency romances, mysteries and historical fiction. Known as the Queen of Regency romance, Heyer was legendary for her research, historical accuracy and her extraordinary plots and characterizations. Her last book, My Lord John, was published posthumously in 1975. She was married to George Ronald Rougier, a barrister, and they had one son, Richard.

Read an Excerpt

The library at Fontley Priory, like most of the principal apartments in the sprawling building, looked to the south-east, commanding a prospect of informal gardens and a plantation of poplars, which acted as a wind-break and screened from view the monotony of the fen beyond. On an afternoon in March the sunlight did not penetrate the Gothic windows, and the room seemed dim, the carpet, the hangings, and the tooled leather backs of the books in the carved shelves as faded as the uniform of the man who sat motionless at the desk, his hands lying clasped on a sheaf of papers, his gaze fixed on a clump of daffodils, nodding in the wind that soughed round the angles of the house, and passed like a shadow over the unscythed lawn.

The uniform showed the buff facings and silver lace of the 52nd Regiment; it was as threadbare as the carpet, but for all its shabbiness it seemed incongruous: as out of place in this quiet room as the man who wore it felt himself to be.

He should not have done so: the Priory was his birthplace, and he owned it; but his adult years had been spent in very different scenes from the placid fens and wolds of Lincolnshire, and his transition from the grandeur of the Pyrenees had been too sudden, and attended by circumstances of too much horror to make it seem to him anything other than a bad dream from which he would presently be awakened by a call to arms, or by a stampeding mule brought down by the guy-ropes of his tent, or by the mere bustle of a camp at first light.

The letters from England had reached him on the last day of January. He had first read his mother's, written in the agitation of her bereavement, and conveying to him in a barely legible series of crossed and recrossed lines the news that his father was dead. He had been more shocked than grieved, never having enjoyed more than a casual acquaintance with the late Viscount. Lord Lynton, while bluff and good-natured when confronted with any of his offspring, had not been blessed with domestic virtues. A close friend of the Prince Regent, he had so much preferred the Prince's society to that of his family that very little of his time had been spent in his home, and none at all in considering what might be the hopes or characteristics of one surviving son and two daughters.

He had been killed in the hunting-field, in the first burst, taking a double at the fly: not a surprising end for an intrepid and frequently reckless horseman. What did surprise his son was to discover that contrary to advice and entreaty he had been riding a green and headstrong young horse, never before tried in the field. Lord Lynton was a bruising rider, but not a fool; his heir, knowing the wild hurly-burly of a first burst with the Quorn or the Belvoir, concluded that he had ridden his young 'un for a wager, and passed on to a maternal command to sell out instantly, and return to England, where his presence was most urgently needed.

The new Lord Lynton (but it was to be many weeks before he answered readily to any other title than Captain Deveril) could not find in his mother's letter any reason why he should pursue a course so repugnant to himself. The letter from Lord Lynton's man of business was less impassioned but more explicit.

He read it twice before his brain was able to grasp its horrifying intelligence, and many times before he laid it before his Colonel.

No one could have been kinder; to no one else, indeed, could Adam Deveril have borne to have disclosed that letter. Colonel Colborne had read it, his countenance unmoved, and he had offered no unwanted sympathy. "You must go," he had said, "I'll grant you furlough immediately, to expedite the business, but you'll sell out, of course." Then, guessing the thoughts hidden behind Adam's rigid countenance, he had added: "A year ago there might have been doubts which way your duty should have led you, but there are none now. We shall soon have Soult on the run in good earnest. I shan't say you won't be missed: you will be—damnably!—but your absence won't affect the issue here. There's no question about it, you know: you must go home to England."

He had known it, of course, and had argued neither with his Colonel nor his own conscience. He had sailed on the first available transport, and, after a brief halt in London, had posted on to Lincolnshire, leaving his man of business to discover the extent of his liabilities, and his tailor to deliver with all possible expedition raiment suited to a civilian gentleman in deep mourning.

This had not yet arrived, but the news that his Regiment had distinguished itself at the Battle of Orthes had reached Fontley, making him at once exultant and wretched; and Mr Wimmering had presented himself at Fontley on the previous day. He had spent the night at the Priory; but the younger Miss Deveril was of the opinion that he could not have enjoyed more than two or three hours of sleep, since he had remained closeted with her brother until dawn. He was very civil to the ladies, so it was unkind of her to liken him to a bird of ill-omen. He was very civil to the new Viscount, too, and very patient, answering all his questions without betraying that he found him lamentably ignorant.

Adam said, with a smile in his tired gray eyes: "You must think me a fool to ask you so many stupid questions. I'm a Johnny Raw, you see. I've never dealt with such matters as these. I don't understand them, and I must."

No, Mr Wimmering did not think his lordship a fool, but deeply did he regret that the late Viscount had not seen fit to admit him to his confidence. But the late Viscount had not seen fit to admit even his man of business wholly into his confidence: there had been transactions on the Stock Exchange in which agents unknown to Wimmering had been employed. He said mournfully: "I could not have advised his lordship to invest his money as he sometimes did. But his nature was sanguine—and I must acknowledge that on several occasions he was fortunate in ventures which I, as a man of affairs, could not have recommended to him." He refreshed himself with a pinch of snuff taken from the battered silver box which he had been tapping with the tip of one desiccated finger, and added: "I was well-acquainted with your honoured parent, my lord, and have for long been persuaded that it was his hope to have restored to its former prosperity the inheritance to which he succeeded, and which, he knew, must in the course of nature presently fall into your hands. The speculative, and, alas, unlucky, enterprise upon which he entered shortly before his untimely demise—" He broke off, transferring his gaze from Adam's face to the line of swaying tree-tops beyond the gardens. To them he apparently addressed the rest of his speech, saying: "It should never be forgotten that his late lordship's nature was, as I have remarked, sanguine. Dear me, yes! If I had a hundred pounds for every occasion on which his lordship suffered reverses on 'Change without the least diminution of his optimism I should be a wealthy man, I assure you, sir!"

No answer was vouchsafed to this. Adam, instead of seeking further reassurance, said in an even tone: "In plain words, Wimmering, how do my affairs stand?"

Plain words, in situations of the utmost delicacy, were obnoxious to Wimmering, but, impelled by some quality in that quiet voice, he replied with unaccustomed bluntness: "Badly, my lord."

Adam nodded. "How badly?"

Mr Wimmering set his fingertips exactly together, and replied evasively: "It is in the highest degree unfortunate that your lordship's grandfather should have deceased before the coming of age of his late lordship. It was his intention to have resettled the estates. At that time, as I need not remind your lordship, my own revered parent stood in the same relation to the Fourth Viscount as I have stood in to the Fifth, and—if I may be permitted to express the wish—as I hope to stand in to your lordship. When you, my lord, attained your majority, it was my earnest desire to have induced his late lordship to repair an omission rendered inevitable by the inscrutable workings of Providence. His lordship, however, did not consider the moment opportune for the prosecution of a design which, I assure you, he had very much at heart. Your presence, my lord, must have been essential: I can have no need to recall to your mind the circumstances which would have made it hard indeed for you to have applied for furlough just then. The Combat of the Coa! It seems but yesterday that we were eagerly perusing the account of that engagement, with the words of commendation bestowed by Lord Wellington on the officers and the men of your lordship's Regiment!"

"The estates, I collect, were even then encumbered?" interpolated his lordship.

Mr Wimmering bowed his head in sorrowful assent, but raised it again to offer a palliative. "But her ladyship's jointure was secured to her."

"And my sisters' portions?"

Wimmering sighed. After a pause, Adam said: "The case seems to be desperate. What must I do?"

"Serious, my lord, but not desperate, we must trust." He raised his hand, as Adam made a gesture towards the mass of papers on his desk. "Let me beg of you not to refine too much upon demands which were, under the circumstances, inevitable! None are immediately pressing. A certain degree of alarm in the creditors was to be expected, and to allay that must be—indeed, has been—my first concern. I do not by any means despair of composing all these matters."

"I have no great head for figures," Adam replied, "but I think the debts total a larger amount than my disposable assets." He picked up a paper, and studied it. "You have set no value on the racing-stables, I observe. Those, I think, should be sold at once, and also the town house."

"Upon no account!" interrupted Wimmering earnestly. "Such an action, my lord, would prove fatal, believe me! Let me repeat that my care has been to allay anxiety: until we see our way more clearly that is most necessary."

Adam laid the paper down. "It is already clear to me. I am facing ruin, am I not?"

"Your lordship takes too despondent a view. The shock has overset you! But we need not despair."

"No, if I had time enough, and the means, perhaps I could restore our fortunes. Surely Fontley was prosperous in my grandfather's day? Since I came home I have been going all about with our bailiff, trying to learn from him in a week the things I ought to have learnt when I was a boy. Instead—" he smiled rather painfully "—I was army-mad. One doesn't realise, or foresee— But repining won't help me out of my difficulties. The land here is as rich as any in Lincolnshire, but so much needs to be done! And if I had the means to do it I should wish above all things to redeem the mortgages, and that I certainly have not the means to do."

"My lord, not all your lands are mortgaged! Do not, I beg of you—"

"Mercifully, not all. The house, and the demesne-lands are unencumbered. Can you tell me what price we should set on them? Both have been neglected, but the Priory is generally thought to be beautiful, and has, besides, historic interest."

"Sell Fontley?" exclaimed Wimmering, aghast. "Your lordship cannot be serious! You are speaking in jest, of course!"

"No, I am not speaking in jest," Adam replied quietly. "I don't think I ever felt less like jesting in my life. If you could show me how to pay off this load of debt, how to provide for my sisters without selling Fontley—but you can't, can you?"

"My lord," said Wimmering, recovering his countenance, "I trust I may be able to do so. It might not be an easy task, but it has occurred to me—if I may speak frankly on a subject of an intimate nature?"

Adam looked surprised, but nodded.

"Such unhappy situations as this are not of such rare occurrence as one could wish, my lord," said Mr Wimmering, intently scrutinising his fingers. "I could tell you of cases within my own experience where the sadly fallen fortunes of a noble house have been resuscitated by a judicious alliance."

"Good God, are you suggesting that I should marry an heiress?" Adam demanded.

"It has frequently been done, my lord."

"I daresay it has, but you mustn't expect me to do it, I'm afraid," returned Adam. "I don't think I'm acquainted with any heiresses, and I'm sure I shouldn't be regarded as an eligible suitor."

"On the contrary, my lord! Your lineage is distinguished; you are the holder of a title; the owner of very considerable estates, and of a seat—as you have said yourself-—of historic interest."

"I never suspected that you had a turn for nonsense!" Adam interrupted. "These possessions of mine are very fine-sounding until you tap them, when they have a hollow ring. In any event, I don't contemplate putting myself up for sale."

There was a note of finality in his voice, and Wimmering bowed to it, content for the present to have instilled the idea into his brain. He might recoil from it, but Wimmering had formed a favourable opinion of his good sense, and he hoped that when he had recovered from the shock of finding himself on the brink of ruin he would perceive the advantages of what was, in his adviser's view, a very simple way out of his difficulties. It was fortunate that he was unattached—if he was unattached. Wimmering knew that a year previously he had fancied himself in love with Lord Oversley's daughter; but no notice of an engagement had ever appeared, and the connection had not met with the Fifth Viscount's approbation. The Fifth Viscount had been quite as anxious as Wimmering that his son should marry money; and from what he knew of Lord Oversley's circumstances Wimmering could not suppose that he either regarded with enthusiasm such an alliance. Miss Julia was an accredited Beauty; and if any man could have made an accurate guess at the extent of Lord Lynton's embarrassments it must have been his old friend Oversley No, Wimmering was inclined to think that his late lordship had been right when he had dismissed the affair as mere calf-love.

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A Civil Contract 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
AmarinaM More than 1 year ago
In a Civil Contract, Georgette Heyer demonstrates a level of maturity not always seen in her other novels. Mind you, I am a Heyer fan and love the humor and light touch of her Regency novels. In this book, however, she develops her characters to a degree almost on a par with Jane Austen. There are no dramatic love scenes and she explores in depth the nature of and facets of marriage and love. As another reviewer noted, the serious tone of this novel is leavened with plenty of humorous moments. I highly recommend this novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story is one of her more serious, thoughtful ones: it has humrorous moments (how could a Heyer not?), but the marriage-for-convenience theme is handled less like a romantic screwball (as in 'Convenient Marriage'), and more like a drama. Jenny is more plain than pretty, and doesn't know how to enhance the beauty she has. But she is practical, patient, kind and witty (though not sparkling, like the beauty Deveril can't forget). Deveril is a gentleman, with all that ought to imply for the good, and together the two learn about each other and the reality of married life. I've heard some say the ending is flat, but I think it is perfectly in tune with the feeling of the novel.
Ann_Qujinn More than 1 year ago
Anyone interested in British history as it changed from an elitist society to the middle class would love this book. Georgette Heyer had a love of the history of the period and a gift for making history fascinating! A "must read" for history buffs as well as those who love a delightful period romance. Napoleon is about to be defeated and industrialization is creating a growing middle class.
Sue_Smiles More than 1 year ago
book (or e-book in this case) of all times. Its a story about 2 people from completely different backgrounds marrying not for love but because of circumstance. My favorite quote: "But it was only in epic tragedies that gloom was unrelieved. In real life tradedy and comedy were so intermingled that when one was most wretched ridiculous things happened to make one laugh in spite of oneself." This is the true heart of the story. No grand passions or profound losses, just life and how the bounds of love, friendship and marriage are formed and grown into something more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of Heyer's best, if not her best romance . Believable story without the silliness found in many of her novels. Heyer develops the story and her characters without contrivance.
vally More than 1 year ago
Georgette Heyer is always a delight to read, and this book is quite satisfying. I found it somewhat bittersweet. Although Adam eventually comes to appreciate the wife he was compelled to marry, his heart was elsewhere through much of the book, and the "happy every after" is more an accommodation that a realized joy.
GeorgetteFan More than 1 year ago
The heroine is not the usual self-confident, beautiful heroine--but she is more like me than any other heroine I have ever read. Georgette Heyer does her justice with her usual deft touch at dialogue and characters.
Anonymous 23 days ago
I absolutely love this book. I wish someone would make all of Georgette Heyer’s books into mini series. #BBC
Figgles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Almost an anti-romance, this work subverts Heyer's usual world where people marry for love (though generally sensibly). Here we have a hero who must marry for money and who learns, as time passes that he's better off with his plain, practical bride. Although the subtext that the way to a mans heart is through making him comfortable can make for uncomfortable reading! A little unusual but worth the read.
byroade on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my all-time favorite books with good character development and an understandable love story. Every time I read this story I pick up more and more elements. There's a lot to engage the reader, but you probably need a good dose of Regency novels and an understanding of the subgenre's conventions to fully appreciate the workings of the storyline.
PhoenixFalls on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was my first Georgette Heyer novel, and I found it truly delightful. I rarely read romances because I have no patience for swooning heroines and brooding heroes, and though one of my favorite authors cites Heyer in general and this book in particular as an inspiration, it took me some time to pick it up.I had no trouble with the amount of period detail, because it seemed no more overwhelming than reading any period piece (such as Jane Austen, who is mentioned a couple of times in the text); indeed, it was set out in a fairly accessible way, which it often is not when reading something written during that time period. I also had no trouble with the time spent on description, particularly of clothing -- Heyer uses her descriptive passages well, always making sure that they are accomplishing either some character-building or at the very least are humorous. (In many cases they were both.) I did find the characters drawn a trifle broadly for my taste -- each person, when introduced seemed so much a stereotype that I worried the plot would be wholly predictable.However, once all the principal parties were introduced, Heyer was able to just set her characters at one another, and this was where she soared for me. I giggled throughout the novel, and actually found myself dog-earing pages with particularly witty dialogue so I could read them to my boyfriend later on. I found Jenny a heroine after my own heart, particularly because she would have laughed at anyone even attempting to call her one.And that was why I loved the ending so very much. The novel has no ". . .and they lived happily ever after", and that makes it feel far realer than a romance has any right to be. There is no melodrama in this novel, no great stores of passion; it is simply two people finding contentment with each other, and discovering that if the choice is between passion and contentment, contentment is to be preferred. Truly, a novel after my own heart, and one I can heartily recommend.
Bodagirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My first Heyer, and I liked it. I though her dealings with the feelings of both Jenny and Adam to be realistic. I almost wish it had stayed a tragic love story, but I wasn't displeased with the happy ending. Very reminiscent of Vanity Fair by William Thackery, though much more readable. I could also see watching the Kiera Knightley movie The Duchess as a companion piece.
riverwillow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the antithesis of most of Heyer's other Georgian novels as the book starts with the marriage. Adam Devril has met the love of his life, Julia Oversley, but it's not a suitable match because Adam's father has gambled away so much of his family fortune so Adam needs a rich wife. So he's introduced to Jenny Chawleigh, daughter of a wealthy city man whose looking to marry her to a man of status. The book charts the first few months of their marriage and how their arranged marriage settles into something that will endure.
kloafman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Have re-read this one more than any other of her works.
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is almost an ¿anti-romance¿ novel. Viscount Lynton (Adam) comes home from the Napoleonic Wars when his father dies in a hunting accident only to find that his father has ruined the estate and he faces having to sell the family home. He also must give up the girl of his dreams to whom he is betrothed. The girl¿s father puts Adam in the way of marrying an heiress, the daughter of an extremely shrewd and wealthy, if somewhat uncouth Cit in order to save the home. The daughter has been raised to have good manners, but she is no beauty and certainly not romantic. She reminds one of Drusilla in The Quiet Gentleman, but without the genteel background. The story was entertaining, especially for readers who like to root for the more sensible girls over the lovely but impractically romantic beauties who usually win the hero. I think this book may be distantly related to These Old Shades & Devil¿s Cub which are related to her classic book, Infamous Army, the book about the Napoleonic wars. There is quite a bit of information about the battle at Waterloo in this book.
Oregonreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Georgette Heyer is generally considered to have invented the Regency Romance genre. But her novels are much closer to Jane Austen than the bodice rippers that we typically think of. In this book, one of her best, she looks at the phenomenon of landed but cash poor nobility marrying wealthy daughters of tradesman. In this case, a young man returns from the Peninsular Wars upon his father's death, to discover the estate is bankrupt. Faced with losing the family home and being unable to take care of his sisters, he is talked into marrying a young daughter of an immensely wealthy man who is anxious to improve her social standing. Heyer looks at the culture clashes and how this mixing of the two worlds unfolds. The characters are very well-drawn and complex. A fascinating story.
justchris on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh so long ago to pass a Friday night I picked up A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer. I thought that I had exhausted the Heyer possibilities at my local library branch, having combed the shelves as well as the paperback carrels several times. But I forgot the large-print section until recently, where I discovered this one.I don't think this was one that I read in my youth, though I am pretty sure that I would not have cared for it back then. This is a very atypical romance novel. It is not one of those farces where one or both parties are in denial and fail to recognize that love and attraction may be driving their conflicts. It is not the story of two people meeting and falling in love and finally managing to get engaged by the end. And unlike most romances, there is never a point where the heroine declares her feelings either to herself or anyone else directly. There are no villains here, but there is a love triangle or quadrangle.Instead, this is the story of a storybook romance that crashes on the shoals of real world difficulties. Our hero falls in love with the girl of his dreams when he is on leave from the Peninsular campaign to recover from his wounds. She is the epitome of the high society damsel--beautiful, rich, romantic, not very practical, full of feminine accomplishments like playing the piano, and all exquisite sensibility (in modern terms, a drama queen). However, the story opens when he inherits the family estate and, more importantly, deep debts upon the untimely death of his father in a hunting accident. He and his potential father-in-law recognize the impossibility of his marrying and supporting a wife, particularly such a high-maintenance butterfly with no real domestic skills. So he must give up the woman of his dreams and this passionate romance that they both feel. Out of familial duty, he agrees to marry a rich heiress, daughter of a Cit, to save the family seat and be able to provide for his sisters and mother to some degree. The rich heiress turns out to be a school friend his lost love, who had also met him before during his convalescence (though of course he doesn't remember her). This romance is the story of two people developing a strong relationship through the daily intimacies of marriage and running a household together, as one of them copes with a broken heart. It is also a story about the antiheroine--she is not pretty or accomplished, uncomfortable in Society, awkward in many ways, with an extremely overbearing and vulgar father, however well-meaning he may be.In some ways, this Heyer novel is a far closer examination of the society of the day than many of her novels. As the hero copes with his father-in-law and his own family and his ex-fiancee, we see just what the expectations of tonnish society are, in terms of things said or done or left unsaid. Likewise, as the antiheroine copes with being thrust into high society and running a lord's house, we see the underlying assumptions and attitudes and behaviors of servants, tenants, and masters, which are usually taken for granted and unexplored in novels where the couple comes from the same class and have the same "breeding" and background. We also see some of the differences between urban and rural society and different moral frameworks between the middle class and high society.So it was an interesting read, but definitely understated and more sober than her other works. I'd consider buying it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Normally I love Georgette Heyer, especially her Regency novels. They're fun, easy reads with just enough predictability to know that everything will work out in the end. Not this book. This story was depressing from start to finish. I kept reading, hoping it would get better, but it didn't. Everything about this story was like a grey cloud, hovering above. I would give this ZERO stars if possible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great characters...uplifting story...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This has always been my favorite Heyer book not only for the depth of characterization, but also for a much more realistic look at Regency era marriage. While I also love her fun and frothy romances, this one has a tone of believability that others lack.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do enjoy Ms Heyer's books enthusiastically, but it was refreshing to read a love story with a heroine that was less than the image of perfection. To me, the tale was more real, had more sympathy, and in all probability closer to the actuality of life in regency England. I would greatly enjoy reading more of the same
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago